By Mariia Liu
Black and orange adorn the outside of the THR33’s Company Snack Bar. The colours stand out, grabbing pedestrians’ attention.
This retro-style restaurant has had its ups and downs since its grand opening during the pandemic, but the owners have maintained their positive attitude, making adjustment after adjustment as the situation changes.
Ian Wilson, Tyler Da Silva, and Tam Auafua signed the lease in February and planned to open in April but could not do so until July 19 when Ontario moved to Stage 3. While their business thrived as customers flocked in, it was not long before the province ordered Ottawa back to Stage 2, forcing them to shut down the dine-in option and revert to takeout and delivery.
“We never wanted to do delivery because I think we have pretty plates and a ‘come see us’ kind of a look. But you have to adapt,” says Wilson, amid preparations to launch Uber Eats.
The three owners all have a background in the food industry, which is how they got together. Auafua met Wilson while working at Stella Osteria, then moved to Sidedoor where he met Da Silva. The three shared the same passion for their work, which pushed Tyler to suggest the idea of opening a restaurant.
Their idea was to serve shareable foods, whether that meant coming in for a drink and a snack by yourself or having dinner with your family.
“When you’re here, you’re not waiting a long time for your food,” Wilson says. He wants guests to be able to build their own menu every time they come in. Three items on the menu can make for an entree, and each item is priced reasonably to allow people to try everything.
The THR33’s Company logo holds up their retro aesthetic. The sign outside their door contains a hidden letter ‘C’ and the number ‘3’, while the character on the wall inside the restaurant is there for everyone’s individual imagination.
“He’s non-binary,” says Da Silva. It could be a chef or a waiter, whatever fits the mind.
The three wanted to incorporate the number three in the name for people to know that the bartender, the chef and the waiter are all owners.
“You’re talking to the people who invested it all in this,” says Da Silva, the chef. While his work is centred in the kitchen, personal interaction with diners is just as important to him, as he often makes the effort to come out and chat.
Their menu includes several unique dishes; frogs’ legs stand out most among all. Before making the dish, Da Silva had never tasted them himself, and he created an Asian dish even though he has never visited the continent.
His perspective is to “learn, listen and translate it using what I’ve learned from here and there.” Da Silva says food should be fun, which is why their menu rotates. When he wants something new, he tries it out and is not afraid to put it on the menu.
“You’re not just stuck on one cookbook,” Da Silva says. “You’re searching through history, looking at other peoples’ menus.”
When customers come in, it is to try something new, whether a new drink or a new dish.
The tuna tartare, for example, is a menu item that sounds ordinary but has a twist that tends to surprise guests. Da Silva says he uses big chunks of tuna and Thai basil pesto, which often seems to create confusion when people see a miso-seasoned fish with pesto. “They’re not sure what to do,” he says, but once people try it, they usually love it.
The three make a good team. They all have their own roles: Wilson behind the bar, Auafua on the administrative side of things and Da Silva in the kitchen. However, they do not stop there. While respecting each other’s strengths, they are eager to learn from one another, to understand and build the snack bar for success.
There is no specific recipe for their work and success, but rather a flow of ideas and a willingness to adapt at any time.
THR33’s Company Snack Bar allows for exploration of new flavours. As Da Silva says, “I think that’s why you go to restaurants, if you want something that will expand your mind and palette. Take that leap, try something you’ve never tried before.”
Mariia Liu is a second-year journalism and human rights student at Carleton.